Do we have to accept that memory loss is just part of the natural progression of aging?
The Memory Diet introduces a powerful, plant-based diet of leafy greens, vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, and whole grains that can slow down or even eliminate cognitive decline. The more than 150 healthy recipes--from awesome appetizers and exceptional entrees to spectacular salads and super soups--are all free of white sugar, processed ingredients, and gluten.
The Memory Diet's brain-boosting recipes are based on the Mediterranean Intervention Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet, a diet plan that may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by as much as 53 percent.
In addition, you will learn how to cook these foods the correct way, as many cooking methods actually cause biochemical changes in the food we eat that can negatively affect our brain health, accelerate the aging process, and cause memory decline.
The Memory Diet also includes:
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About Your Memory: Maintaining Memory Health
With dementia on the rise, it's easy to become paranoid when you forget something. However, memory loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process, and it's important to distinguish between what's normal when it comes to memory loss and when you should be concerned. Most of us have experienced forgetting where we put our keys or cell phone, or have forgotten an acquaintance's name. Normal forgetfulness is more common in older adults. Some examples of normal forgetfulness are not remembering the name of an actor in a movie you just saw, or standing in the middle of your kitchen and suddenly blanking on what you wanted to write on your grocery list. In most cases if we wait a few minutes the information will come to mind. Memory lapses can be frustrating, but most of the time they are not cause for concern. As we age we experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in the way our brain functions. It can take longer to learn and recall information. Taking longer to do something does not equate to serious memory loss.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease, as it describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory. There are many forms of dementia, which include vascular and mixed dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. Dementia can be overwhelming for the people who have it, and also for their families and caregivers. If you or someone you love is experiencing any signs of a more serious memory problem, then it's important to see a doctor to find the root of the cause.
Memory loss does not automatically mean that you have dementia. There are many reasons why you may be experiencing memory problems, which may include any of the following: stress, depression, hearing or vision loss, thyroid problems, genetic propensity, past head injury, stoke, drug use, or vitamin deficiencies. Even if you are not displaying the common symptoms of dementia, it is always a good idea to take steps to prevent a small problem from becoming a large problem!
It is true that as we age, the body does break down, and normal memory loss or forgetfulness can occur. Age is one of the factors that may increase your chances of getting Alzheimer's as most of the cases occur after the age of 65. The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that age-related memory loss has little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. However, dementia is marked by a persistent decline in two or more intellectual abilities, such as memory, language, judgment, and abstract thinking. Severe memory loss disrupts your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships.
Fortunately, the brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age and memory loss does not have to happen. Keeping the brain sharp is important. Your lifestyle choices, health habits, and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of your brain. The good news is that many mental abilities are largely not affected by normal aging, such as your ability to do things you have always done and continue to do often, your wisdom and knowledge you have acquired from life experiences, and your innate common sense and ability to reason. Making smart lifestyle choices can decrease and possibly prevent your chances of getting many diseases including dementia.
Maintaining Memory Health
For many years many of us have been under the impression that there is little we can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease or dementia, and that memory loss is part of the natural progression of aging. It seems like all we can do is hope for the best and wait for a cure. Alzheimer's drugs have not shown much benefit, which underscores the importance of prevention throughout your lifetime. Studies have shown that lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercising, staying mentally and socially active, keeping stress in check, getting adequate sleep, and taking certain supplements can reduce your risk of getting memory loss. By leading a brain healthy lifestyle, you can be able to prevent Alzheimer's symptoms and slow down or even reverse the process of deterioration.
In this chapter we will discuss the impact of lifestyle choices and how they can prevent dementia. We will also discuss the lifestyle choices to avoid in preventing your chances of getting dementia.
Exercise is critical in preventing dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent. The New York Times health and science writer Gretchen Reynalds wrote, "Exercise potentially does more to bolster thinking than thinking does."
People who get regular, vigorous exercise also tend to stay mentally sharp in their 70s and 80s. Exercising is good for the lungs, and people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong in old age characteristically have good lung function. Exercise helps reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and stroke. These are all illnesses that lead to memory loss. Most importantly, animal research has shown that exercise increases the level of neurotropins, substances in the body that nourish brain cells and help protect them against damage from stroke and other injuries. Exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein in the brain is metabolized, thus slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. It also increases levels of a protein known as Peroxisome proliferator-activator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator (PGC-1 alpha), a protein that is helpful to the brain. People with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1 alpha in their brains, and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's.
Exercise doesn't need to be extreme, but should be regular. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that adults get about two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is defined as movement that raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat. An easy way to tell whether your exertion level is moderate is that you will be able to talk, but not sing, while exercising.
Here are some ways to get daily exercise:
* When possible, walk instead of driving or riding.
* Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
* Exercise at home, possibly with an exercise video.
* Plant a garden.
* Take an exercise class or join a health club.
* Swim regularly, if you have access to a pool, lake, or beach.
* Learn a sport that requires modest physical exertion, such as tennis.
* Dance while listening to music.
Playing ping pong, also known as table tennis, is known to improve one's attention and concentration. Japanese researchers also found that in players older than 50, ping pong improved brain function by activating specific neurons. It showed promise in preventing dementia as well. Exercise helps boost your energy levels, helps you control your weight, strengthens your muscles and bones, and decreases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. Exercise stimulates the growth of brain cells and protects against brain cell death. The University of British Columbia finds that regular aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of your hippocampus (the part of your brain that helps you learn and remember). Basically, exercise increases your general quality of life and decreases your chances of experiencing memory loss.
Exercise may include many types of movement from running to bicycling. When doing a sport that may be more dangerous, such as bicycling or football, we highly recommend you wear protective gear such as a helmet to avoid head injuries. A Tufts University study found that even a single trauma to the brain could lead to Alzheimer's. Even being aware of your surroundings to avoid falling or injuries is a good idea. It's important to nail down rugs, dry slippery floors promptly, make sure your stairs have sturdy handrails, and avoid using step-stools or ladders without someone spotting you. Wearing the right fitting shoes is important, too, because the height of the heel can affect your balance, which can cause you to fall.
New research indicates music can help those with dementia. Researchers at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York state claim there is a biological link between the auditory cortex of the brain and its limbic system (where emotions are processed) that make it possible for sound to be processed almost immediately by the areas associated with long-term memory and emotions. Music often has a personal significance to someone and is connected with historical events that engage a happy response from those with dementia. One of the noted neurologists, Dr. Oliver Sacks, states that people with neurological damage learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music. In numerous clinical studies of older people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, familiar music, not medication, has reduced depression, lessened agitation, increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability, and decreased problem behaviors often associated with dementia. Published in Science Translation Medicine, researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia, are finding that a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which incorporates noninvasive beams of sound waves into the brain tissue, has been able to stimulate the microglial cells in the brain to activate. Microglia cells are basically the resident macrophages of the brain and spinal cord, and act as the first and main form of active immune defense in the central nervous system (CNS). Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that engulfs and digests cellular debris or foreign substances such as cancer cells. They are able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer's.
We can tell you firsthand that our mother's greatest joy is to listen to music! It makes her happy, and she loves to listen to it when she goes walking every day. We definitely believe the joy she gets from listening to music combined with her daily exercise has slowed down her dementia considerably.
Staying Mentally and Socially Active
Physical activity is essential to maintaining your mental health, and so is mental exercising. Reading regularly, keeping up with current affairs, learning a new hobby, learning how to play a new instrument, playing challenging games, and learning a new language are all activities that keep the mind active. According to research done at Singapore Management University, learning a foreign language can help your brain process information better and help you focus more sharply. Whether it is learning a new language or doing word games, these activities can delay and help decrease the onset of dementia.
People who have spent more time in formal education appear to have a lower incidence of mental decline, even when they have brain abnormalities. Researchers believe that education may help your brain develop a stronger nerve cell network that compensates for nerve cell damage caused by Alzheimer's. Advance education may help keep memory strong by getting people into the habit of being mentally active. Regardless of your level of education, anyone can be an active, lifelong learner. Some people continue their education with adult education classes or advanced degrees even in late adulthood. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument, getting a new iPhone or computer, or learning a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Mental exercises include social interaction. A diverse and widely developed network is just as important as intellectual stimulation when it comes to keeping your mind nimble. It is vital to regularly stay in touch with friends and family. Maintaining social interaction is beneficial for preserving cognition, and many of the most pleasurable experiences are those you share with others. Regularly schedule any activity you enjoy. A visit to the theater, a walk in the park, anything that involves interaction with other people, joining a group or class, doing volunteer work or getting a job, and playing team sports are all great ways to stay socially active and important in keeping the brain healthy.
Getting the Proper Amount of Sleep
Sleep is essential for memory health as well as overall health. Although people vary widely in their individual sleep needs, research suggests that six to eight hours of sleep per night is ideal. The quality of your sleep may be even more important than the amount of sleep. Breathing problems during sleep, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can affect the brain. Getting a good night's sleep for some people is easier said than done, especially because insomnia becomes more common with age. However, certain habits can help. Here are some tips for better sleep:
* Turn off all lights before going to bed. One of the biggest contributors to collective sleep problems is the use of artificial light and electronics at night. Modern light bulbs and electronic devices (especially computer monitors, tablets, and cell phones) produce large amounts of blue light that "trick" our brains into thinking it is daytime.
* Establish and maintain a consistent sleep schedule and routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. A set sleep routine will "train" you to fall asleep and wake up more easily.
* Plan to do your most vigorous exercise early in the day. Exercising in the hours immediately before bedtime causes physiological changes that interfere with sleep. Exercising in the morning, on the other hand, enhances your alertness when you need it most — at the beginning of the day.
* Avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, many soft drinks, some brands of aspirin, and many types of teas, after mid-morning, because caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake for hours afterward.
* Sleep if you are tired. Trying to sleep when you are not tired has you tossing and turning all night. If you are still awake after 20 minutes in bed, get up and read for a while to help yourself relax.
* If you experience persistent sleep problems, consult your physician so that you can find out what's wrong and get treatment if needed.
Stress that is chronic can take a heavy toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area of the brain known as the hippocampus. Stress also hampers nerve cell growth, and increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Here are some simple techniques that can help keep your stress levels in check:
* Breathe! Stress alters your breathing rate and impacts oxygen levels in the brain. Quite simple and free!
* Schedule daily relaxation activities. Keeping stress under control is not that hard. When you schedule your daily activities have fun making a to-do list and write it in the color red. A study from the University of Regensburg in Germany found that the color red "binds" into our memory better than other colors. It's an ideal color for recalling what is on your to-do list.
* Make relaxation a priority, whether it's a walk in the park, playtime with your dog, yoga, or a soothing bath.
* While relaxing you might close your eyes to remember something great that happened that day. Research from the University of Surrey in the UK found that closing your eyes while recalling an event could help you remember details 23 percent more accurately. It is believed that once visual distractions are removed, your brain focuses more efficiently.
* Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
* Be positive. Studies show that optimists tend to have increased lifespans, more responsive immune systems, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Make a point to regularly ask yourself, "What if everything went right instead of wrong?" Positive thinking can actually activate the physical ability of your brain to adapt and change.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Memory Diet"
Copyright © 2016 Judi and Shari Zucker.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Hyla Cass, MD 11
Chapter 1 About Your Memory: Maintaining Memory Health 19
Chapter 2 Foods for Thought: The Power of Diet 37
Chapter 3 Stocking a Mindful Kitchen 47
Chapter 4 Recipes for Brain Health 65
Sensational Smoothies 66
Awesome Appetizers 78
Splendid Sides 93
Exceptional Entrees 103
Spectacular Salads 123
Super Soups 146
Delightful Desserts and Snacks 168
Appendix A Metric Conversion Tables 195
Appendix B The 7-Day Memory Diet Meal Plan 199
About the Authors 221